ELL Teacher Job Description


English as a Second Language (ESL) teachers or Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) can be found working at the elementary, secondary, and post-secondary levels in private or public schools; in adult education settings (life skills, literacy, or vocational training programs); for non-profit organizations (e.g., U.S. Peace Corps); for private tutoring companies; in international business settings; and throughout the world.

However, much attention as of late has been given to TESOL instruction in public school settings given the influx of immigrants into many parts of the U.S. In fact, the National Education Association reports that 6 million English Language Learners (ELLs) are currently enrolled in U.S. schools. As a result, TESOL has become a popular primary or add-on endorsement, particularly in areas of the country where immigrant populations are steadily increasing.

*Capella University offers an online Master’s program in English Language Learning and Teaching designed to help educators advance their career in supporting diverse student populations. While it does not satisfy licensure requirements, the program can help you build the skills to use instructional strategies, emerging trends, and best practices to effectively teach English Language Learners and help students adapt to new cultural environments.

*The USC Rossier School of Education offers its Master of Arts in Teaching - Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (MAT-TESOL) program online, allowing current and aspiring educators to earn a master’s degree from a top-ranked university and specialize in teaching English to non-native speakers - from anywhere in the world.

In public K-12 school settings, TESOL educators are state-licensed teachers who receive their ESL credentials through their state department of education. Although the duties of ESL teachers vary depending on the age of the students, and the type of students being taught, the goals are always the same: to ensure that ELLs are able to reach a proficient achievement level on state tests, succeed in English-led classrooms, and fully participate in society.


TESOL Job Duties and Responsibilities

The job description for an ESL teacher may include the following performance responsibilities:

  • Plan, organize, and provide instruction in English that meet state and federal standards
  • Provide instruction that is consistent and coordinated with the district’s/school’s instructional program so as to ensure that students meet and exceed learning targets
  • Develop and deliver lesson plans that utilize a broad range of appropriate teaching techniques and strategies
  • Address all aspects of communication through appropriate instruction that develops each student’s ability to read, write, speak, and listen in the appropriate content area
  • Administer academic and language assessments for the purpose of evaluating student progress for meeting academic learning targets and progress in language acquisition
  • Maintain complete and accurate records of student progress and evidnece of growth and progress
  • Provide a nurturing and supportive learning environment that encourages student responsibility and incorporates challenging instructional strategies
  • Adapt curriculum to provide individual, small group, and/or remedial instruction as to meet the needs of individual students and subgroups of students
  • Establish and maintain standards of student behavior required to run an orderly and productive classroom environment
  • Employ a variety of instructional techniques and strategies to meet different aptitudes and interests of students
  • Manage allotted learning time to maximize student achievement
  • Oversee assigned out-of-classroom activities during the school day, as needed

Minimum Requirements for Employment

Many states, such as Texas, Arizona, and Virginia, offer ESL as a primary endorsement through approved undergraduate or graduate teacher preparation programs or as certification programs that serve as add-on endorsements to existing elementary or secondary teaching licenses. Some states, such as Arkansas and Louisiana, while they do not offer ESL teacher preparation programs as a primary endorsement area, recognize English as a Second Language (K-12) as an add-on endorsement to a current teaching license.

It is also typical for teachers interested in becoming ESL teachers to have some experience working with ELLs. Graduate degrees and graduate certificates in ESL are becoming commonplace, as well, with students often able to choose a licensure or non-licensure pathway.

In addition to meeting the state’s/school’s education and experience requirements, ESL teacher candidates must ensure they meet additional qualifications, which often include possessing:

  • Outstanding personal and interpersonal communication skills
  • Excellent organizational skills
  • The ability to keep concise records
  • A sensitivity to the development stages and well-being of ELLs
  • The ability to incorporate current technology into the classroom environment
  • The ability to facilitate group discussion, analyze situations, and draw conclusions
  • The ability to work with a diversity of individuals and groups
  • Excellent problem solving skills to analyze issues and create action plans
  • The ability to adapt to changing work priorities and maintain flexible working hours
  • The ability to establish and maintain constructive relationships

Understanding Industry Acronyms for TESOL Careers

There are a number of acronyms used for teachers of ELLs. To fully understand the profession, it is important to understand what these terms mean and the ways they are used to identify teaching to ELLs.

Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) is a popular term (and the name of a professional association) that often serves as a general title for the field of teaching that includes TESL (Teaching English as a Second Language) and TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language).

TESL is the term most often used for teaching English to speakers of other languages in the U.S., while TEFL refers to teaching English programs in countries where English is not the primary language.

While teacher of ELLs in U.S. public schools must possess a teaching license and ESL credentials awarded through their state department of education, educators who teach ESL in private language schools throughout the world must generally possess a bachelor’s degree or higher, fluency in another language, and some type of certificate in TESL or TEFL.

Individuals seeking to teach English overseas are best served by contacting the ministry of education in the country where they plan to work for more information about the country’s educational system and academic requirements for teachers.

In the U.S. ESL teachers, in addition to teaching in a public or private school setting, may also teach in private language schools for both adults and children (often referred to as ESOL programs – English for Speakers of Other Languages); at the college/university level; for a private tutoring company; or for international companies, both in the U.S. and abroad.

Further, educators who are skilled in TEFL and TESL are in demand in U.S. government-sponsored organizations such as the Peace Corps and the U.S. Department of State.

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